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The Air Force's Guardian Angel Air-Deployable Rescue Vehicle.

Just because a military capability can be bought doesn’t necessarily mean it should be bought.

That thought surfaced while reading a bid-protest ruling concerning the Air Force’s purchase of Guardian Angel Air-Deployable Rescue Vehicles. A GAARV “is a ground vehicle, deployable by air, that rescue teams can maneuver over adverse terrain to search for, recover, and transport isolated personnel from an area of high threat to a defendable location.”

Guardian Angel Air-Deployable Rescue Vehicles?

At a minimum, it sounds like a violation of the separation of church and state. Beyond that, does the military really need up to 61 dedicated, hyper-specialized off-road vehicles for $27,021,069 (that’s $443,000 each) to drop out of aircraft ranging from C-130 cargo planes to CH-47 and CH-53 helicopters?

Just reading through the bizarre Government Accountability Office’s ruling – it concluded that General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems of St. Petersburg, Fla., lost the contract, fair and square, to HDT Tactical Systems, Inc. of Solon, Ohio, earlier this year – makes one ponder the logic of such a purchase, and the waste of resources spent on it — and arguing over it:

The protester asserts that HDT’s vehicle is not steerable and stoppable by at least one rescue team member other than the driver, and that it does not provide rollover protection to two litter patients and the rescue team in all crew positions…

GD-OTS alleged that because HDT’s proposed vehicle has just one front seat (where the driver sits), it is impossible for the other crew members to reach the steering wheel (or brakes) to steer (or stop) the vehicle. The agency argued in response that HDT’s proposal shows that other crew members have access to the controls for steering and braking its GAARV despite the location of their seats…The Air Force also pointed to pictures in the proposal that, according to the agency, showed “the proximate, readily accessible, and largely unobstructed nature of the location of the steering wheel and brake levers relative to the rear seats within the cabin area thus allowing direct access to both devices by all cabin occupants.”

…the protester argued that HDT’s proposal included a diagram that demonstrated the inaccessibility of its vehicle’s steering wheel and brakes to any crew member other than the driver…The protester argued that if the arc representing the limits of the crew member’s reach is flipped (to represent the distance forward that a crew member can reach), it is clear that no passenger crew member would be able to reach the steering wheel or brakes without disengaging his seat belt and clambering over the incapacitated driver. GD-OTS further argued that “[i]f removing safety devices and climbing over seats and people is an acceptable solution, then the Storm can be steered and stopped even by the crew member in the bed of the vehicle–given enough perilous acrobatics.”

…In response, HDT argued that while crew members other than the driver can access the controls for steering and stopping its vehicle from their seats, the solicitation did not require that other crew members be capable of performing this function while remaining seated…In particular, HDT maintained that the extrapolation failed to take into account that crew members seated in the rear seats could extend their reach distance beyond the range represented by the arc simply by leaning forward…

Based on our review of the solicitation here, we agree with HDT that the requirement that the vehicle be steerable and stoppable by a crew member other than the driver does not imply a requirement that the other crew member be capable of performing these functions while remaining belted into his seat…

GD-OTS’s second argument, that HDT’s proposal did not demonstrate compliance with the requirement that the GAARV provide rollover protection to two litter patients and the rescue team in all crew positions, is also without merit. In this connection, the protester asserts that HDT’s proposal did not offer any evidence that the rollover protection identified is, in fact, strong enough to protect the litter patients and crew members in the event of a rollover. The protester conjectures that in the event the vehicle were to roll over, these bars would likely deform under the weight of the falling vehicle. GD-OTS further argues that the proposal offered no evidence that the bars would adequately protect litter patients and crew members on the rear deck in the event the vehicle were to overturn in an area with jutting crags or outcroppings…

Here, the record establishes that the evaluators considered HDT’s written description of its vehicle’s rollover protection system as well as the various photographs of the system…to be sufficient evidence to demonstrate compliance with the requirement for rollover protection…

The protest is denied.

It is simply incredible that we are spending money on such marginal systems for the future, when people like Marine Sergeant Edward Passetto are jumping off mountains and killing themselves because they can’t get the help they need after doing what their nation asked of them.